The Archbishop of Canterbury has confirmed the secret wedding between Prince Harry and his wife Meghan three days before their royal wedding.
During the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle said the couple were married by Archbishop Justin Welby in a private backyard ceremony with no guests. The duchess said ‘nobody knew’ that the couple had exchanged personal vows ‘just the two of us’ three days before their wedding at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle on Saturday, May 19, 2018. Speculation has since swirled around the legality of the private ceremony with the archbishop remaining silent on the matter.
Mr Welby, the most senior Church of England cleric, has now confirmed that the ‘legal wedding was on the Saturday’ but acknowledged that he had met with the couple before the ceremony. ‘But I won’t say what happened at any other meetings,’ he added, during an interview with Italian newspaper la Repubblica. The Archbishop of Canterbury said: ‘If any of you ever talk to a priest, you expect them to keep that talk confidential.
‘It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to. I had a number of private and pastoral meetings with the duke and duchess before the wedding. ‘I signed the wedding certificate, which is a legal document, and I would have committed a serious criminal offence if I signed it knowing it was false.’
During the interview, Meghan had told Oprah: ‘You know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that. ‘But we called the Archbishop and we just said, “Look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world but we want our union between us”. ‘So, the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.’
Harry then jokingly started singing: ‘Just the three of us, just the three of us.’
Following the claims, questions were raised over whether the private ceremony could be classed as a legal wedding partly because UK law requires two witnesses. The former official who issued the Sussexes’ wedding licence said Meghan was ‘clearly misinformed’ and that the private ceremony was ‘not valid’ because the couple’s home – Nottingham Cottage – was not an authorised venue. Stephen Borton, the former chief clerk at the Faculty Office, told The Sun:
‘The Special Licence I helped draw up enabled them to marry at St George’s Chapel in Windsor and what happened there on 19 May 2018 and was seen by millions around the world was the official wedding as recognised by the Church of England and the law.
‘What I suspect they did was exchange some simple vows they had perhaps written themselves, and which is fashionable, and said that in front of the Archbishop or, and more likely, it was a simple rehearsal.’ The couple’s spokesperson confirmed at the time: ‘The couple exchanged personal vows a few days before their official/legal wedding on May 19.’
Harry and Meghan, who are expecting their second child – a daughter – following a miscarriage last year, spoke to Oprah from California where they have embraced their new life away from the monarchy. The secret wedding was one of a series of revelations made during the explosive interview, with the most damning allegation involving an unnamed member of the royals who had raised ‘concerns’ about how dark her unborn baby’s skin would be when she was pregnant with Archie, now one.
Harry would not be drawn on who made such comments but Oprah later said he wanted to make it known that it was not the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip.
The duke also criticised his relatives for failing to speak out in support of Meghan following the racism and negative press she faced, while the duchess said she was refused mental health support when feeling suicidal. Buckingham Palace previously said the issues raised in Harry and Meghan’s interview, especially over racism, were ‘concerning’ and would be addressed by the Queen and her family privately.